For Americans of a certain age, this upscale community 30 miles north of downtown Chicago will always be remembered as Shermer, Illinois, the fictional home of the hapless but good-hearted teens in John Hughes movies of the 1980s, most notably Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Many scenes were filmed at Glenbrook North High School and other Northbrook locations.
Hughes was undoubtedly inspired by Northbrook’s original name of Shermerville, selected when the town was incorporated in 1909. Perhaps looking for something more upscale, the town held a contest to select a new name in 1923. Northbrook was chosen as the winner, a reference to the North Branch of the Chicago River which runs through the town.
The original name is still around in the form of Lake Shermerville, a scenic man-made lake that’s part of the Northbrook Park District and is used for fishing and canoeing. Swimmers cool off at Meadowhill Aquatic Center’s four pools and water park. Techny Prairie Park and Fields is the Park District’s showpiece, featuring all the usual ball fields and playgrounds, plus a skate park, golf course, a unique natural history-themed walking trail, and a lighted sledding hill.
But perhaps the most unusual park district facility is the Ed Rudolph Velodrome, the only bicycle track of its type in Illinois, and one of about 25 in the country. The Northbrook Cycling Club provides training and sponsors races.
Northbrook kids have many opportunities to shine. The Northbrook Theatre is home to a children’s theatre group with actors in grades 6-10, plus a professional adult company that offers musical theatre productions and educational programs for young audiences. The prestigious skating school has produced several Olympic medalists, and offers instruction in figure skating, speed skating and hockey. The Northbrook Symphony is an adult orchestra with special programs designed to develop promising young musicians.
Homes in Northbrook offer an interesting mix of housing styles, covering every period from the 1920s through 2010. The older homes are generally located in the central portion of the village; several estate-style homes from the 20s and 30s and some large renovated 50s ranches are priced over $1 million, with a good selection in the $500,000 to $700,000 range.
Newer homes, many priced upwards of $2 million, are concentrated in the western section, but teardowns have allowed many newer homes to be built in the older part of town. Prices for these average around $600,000 to $700,000. A good selection of multi-family homes is available, with older condos selling for under $200,000, and newer luxury townhomes priced at $400,000 to $600,000.
Shopping, Dining and Nightlife
In Northbrook, shopping revolves around Northbrook Court, the sprawling luxury mall on the village’s northern border. Anchored by Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus, the mall also includes a glitzy collection of specialty stores as well as the ultimate name in today’s retail world, the Apple Store. The large, freestanding Crate & Barrel could be considered the company’s flagship store, as its corporate headquarters is located in Northbrook.
Within the mall, dining options are limited to the usual food court standards, with a few full service restaurants. Elsewhere in Northbrook, two upscale steakhouses, Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris, compete for the red meat eaters, and a host of Italian options satisfy villagers’ cravings for pizza and pasta. Local favorite Charlie Beinlich’s has been serving up burgers and beer in a classic north woods setting for almost 60 years.
For those looking for after dark entertainment, a few friendly, local watering holes offer weekend karaoke, and live music is available at some of the area’s hotel bars.
Several elementary districts serve Northbrook’s younger students, but virtually all come together to attend Glenbrook North High School. Private options include Montessori schools and Catholic and Jewish elementary schools.